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Jewish Widow’s Aliyah to Israel

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Eden Weiss

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Israeli law protects the right of all Jews and their spouses to make aliyah, but a lack of clarity persists as to the status of the widow or widower of a Jew. A widower is the spouse of a person who was entitled to make Aliyah but died without emigrating to Israel. Under what conditions will they be considered relatives entitled to make aliyah, and what actions can be taken in cases this right is denied them? Attorney Michael Decker, an immigration law expert, will explain a Jewish widow’s right to make aliyah to Israel below.

Our law office with branches in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in the field of immigration to Israel. Our lawyers have extensive professional experience in legally representing individuals interested in immigrating to Israel before the Ministry of the Interior, various authorities, and the courts.

The Right to Aliyah to Israel under the Law of Return

One of the stated objectives of the State of Israel (recently enshrined in the Nationality Law) is for Israel to be a safe place to which Jews around the world may immigrate at any time. The Law of Return was enacted shortly after the establishment of the State, to regulate the right of Jews to make aliyah to Israel. Jews, and those eligible to make aliyah to Israel under the Law of Return, may apply to the Jewish Agency abroad, or enter Israel as tourists and apply for Israeli Aliyah and citizenship while in Israel. Later, the Law was amended, adding the possibility for Jewish family members to immigrate to Israel as well.

Today, the law stipulates aliyah eligibility also for spouses of Jews as well as their descendants (children and grandchildren), except for those who were Jewish and voluntarily converted to another religion. The law defines a Jew as one born of a Jewish mother, or who converted to Judaism and is not a member of another religion. We explained this in detail in another article published on our website.

Jewish Widow's Aliyah to Israel

Does the right of aliyah for Jewish relatives also apply to the widow or widower of a Jew?

Romantic and marital ties are oftne forged between those who are Jews and/or Israelis living outside Israel and foreign citizens who are not members of the Jewish religion. Spouses to Jews may immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. The question arises as to whether the right of Jews to aliyah also applies to the widower or widow of a Jew.

An important High Court ruling, dated 2010, states that as long as an applicant for aliyah to Israel bears the status of widower or widow, their eligibility is maintained under the Law of Return. This determination was based on the overarching purpose of the law – to encourage Jews to make aliyah to Israel. Expansion of aliyah eligibility to include immediate family members also stems from considering family members as those who have linked themselves to the Jewish people. Therefore, they have independent right to emigrate to Israel, even if their spouses are deceased.

In addition to the above-mentioned important ruling, the High Court, in another judgment, ruled that the right of family members to make aliyah to Israel is formed and examined at the time of making aliyah, that is, at the time of their arrival to Israel. Those with previous rights to aliyah, but changes to their personal circumstances or personal status, may have their right to aliyah revoked as a result.

What can be done in the event an aliyah application is denied under the Law of Return?

As stated, a change in personal status may revoke the right of a widower or widow of a Jew to make aliyah to Israel under the Law of Return. The above-mentioned judgment of the High Court of Justice, dated 2010, examined the case of a woman married to a Jew who was later widowed. Subsequently, she came to Israel, met an Israeli and the two were married in a civil marriage ceremony in Cyprus. The court ruled that once the woman married another man, she was no longer eligible to make aliyah under the Law of Return.

However, this determination does not block the possibility of undertaking citizenship proceedings for Jewish spouses under the Citizenship Law. Even in the case in question, where the marriage relationship with the Israeli spouse ended, the court ordered the woman’s case to be examined before the Committee for Humanitarian Affairs, which discusses cases of citizenship application due to termination of marital relationships. Hence, as a rule, there is still a naturalization track for ex-spouses of Jews, even if they did not exercise their right of immigration to Israel when they could.

Contact our experts on Israeli immigration law

If you have any personal question or need assistance regarding a Jewish Widow’s Aliyah to Israel, a lawyer from our law firm with expertise in the field of immigration to Israel, will be happy to assist you. You may contact us using the phone numbers or the email address listed below.

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